7 Tips to Cat-Proof Your Christmas Tree

Gray cat in a Christmas tree looking up at a gold ball

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For cats, Christmas trees must look like giant play areas filled with bright, sparkly objects. Unfortunately, Christmas trees pose a danger to cats and can cause a lot of potential headaches for their owners. If you are excitedly bringing home your first Christmas tree as a cat owner, hold off on trimming the tree until you see how your kitty reacts to it. After careful observation, you can decide what precautions you need to take to protect your kitty and your ornaments. 

Here are seven ways to cat proof your Christmas tree.

1. Choose Your Tree Wisely

If you’re considering a live Christmas tree, be aware that the sap from the tree can be poisonous to pets. Ingesting the resin or needles from a pine or fir tree can trigger nausea, vomiting, skin irritation, or stomach injury. It’s important to keep the tree water off limits as well. Stagnant water contains bacteria that can cause gastrointestinal issues. Avoid water additives to extend tree freshness as these may contain harmful preservatives and fertilizers. 

Those with cats that are prone to nibble on off-limits objects should consider an artificial tree. If your kitty is likely to climb and knock over the tree, pick a smaller tree that will cause less damage when toppled. The best Christmas tree for homes with cats might be a small tabletop tree that can be closed off in another room when the kitties are out and about.

2. Spray Repellents

There are several spray repellents you can use to keep cats away from your tree, but you can also make your own. Some cats dislike citrus scents, so try a spray of water mixed with citrus or citronella oil. You can also place fresh lemon and orange peels around the base of the tree or within the branches. Just replace the peels every few days to maintain the fresh scent. Diluted apple cider vinegar sprayed around the base of the tree can also be a good deterrent to cats that aren't fond of the smell.

3. Wrap Your Tree Base With Aluminum Foil

An effective obstacle to keep cats away from a Christmas tree is aluminum foil. Wrap the tree trunk and base entirely with aluminum foil. Since most cats don’t like the sound of the foil or the feeling of digging their claws into it, they’ll keep their distance from the tree.

4. Contain Cords

Dangling electrical cords are an invitation for a kitty to play and bite. If a cat bites through a cord, it can lead to burns and electrocution. Use cord covers and tape the cords to the wall from the outlet to the tree to keep them — and your cat — out of harm's way. When decorating the tree, wrap the lights tightly around the tree trunk so they're not as accessible. And remember, for a cat-safe Christmas tree, don't forget to unplug lights when you go to sleep and before you leave the house.

5. Secure Your Tree

Despite all of your best efforts, your cat may still find its way into your Christmas tree. It’s important that the tree be well secured so that your curious kitty doesn’t accidentally knock the whole thing down. Start with a heavy tree stand, or add weights to a lighter stand, to keep the tree firmly on the ground. You can also attach the tree stand to a heavy piece of plywood to keep it secure.

Make sure you position the tree near a wall. Attach a thin wire or clear fishing line to the top of the tree and fasten it to the wall to make sure the tree remains upright.

6. Decorate Judiciously

If your tree is covered with sparkly, dangly baubles, it won't matter how much stinky repellant you spray on it: Your cat will be hard-pressed to resist. For a more cat-friendly Christmas tree, don't hang any breakable decorations on the lower half of the tree. And if possible, keep the lowest branches of the tree free from all ornaments and potential temptations. 

Skip the tinsel entirely. This flashy tree decoration is extremely hazardous to felines. If eaten, tinsel can cause bowel obstruction in cats. Edible ornaments strung on the tree — like popcorn and candy — should also be avoided as they can cause a blockage if ingested.

7. Put Up Roadblocks

Depending upon the size of your tree — and your kitten — you may be able to put obstacles in place that will keep your cat out of the Christmas tree. Remove chairs and tables that might serve as a launching pad to help your cat jump higher into the tree. 

An exercise pen, fence, or baby gate can also be positioned around the tree to limit your cat’s access to it. Some cats don’t like stepping on pine cones and won’t get too close if they are placed around the base of the tree.